The U.S. Department of Education should be applauded for taking a needed step forward in updating and improving federal teacher education guidelines. Throughout the nation, the vast majority of teacher preparation programs are readying educators as we have for more than a century. Learners both need and deserve teachers ready to lead the classrooms of tomorrow, not the classrooms of their grandparents or great grandparents. These regulations begin to point us toward that future.
The strong action taken by the Obama Administration can have a lasting, positive impact on teacher preparation. It will now fall to the U.S. Congress and a new president to build on these regulations as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. As significant as these regulatory changes are, they are but one step in a long journey to transform higher education to meet the demands of tomorrow.
With cognitive science teaching us so much about how individuals learn, we must apply those lessons to how we, as a nation, prepare classroom educators. Successful teachers today know there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to teaching in their classrooms. All learners come with different levels of knowledge, learning styles, and abilities. As we look to K--12 teachers to personalize instruction and deliver student-focused instruction, so too should we look to our education schools and teacher preparation programs to deliver personalized learning to aspiring teachers. These regulatory changes begin the essential process of updating the law to meet the demands of 21st-century education.
These changes largely reflect lessons learned by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation in working to transform STEM (science-technology-engineering-mathematics) teacher preparation across the country. And these priorities are essential to strengthening teacher education programs to meet the future needs of schools and students alike.
All of those involved in teacher preparation must realize that these regulations represent the floor in teacher education, and not the ceiling. These regulations represent the minimum that every teacher preparation program must offer to aspiring educators. It is now the responsibility of the entire field to use these changes to continually improve, innovate, and transform our teacher education programs, placing the same high expectations on teacher education programs that we ultimately place on program graduates.